Wednesday, June 4, 2014

104. No Wind When It's Cold

"Will this wind ever stop?"


"I SAID, WILL THIS WIND EVER- OH GOD OW," I stop yelling mid-sentence as several small ice chunks blow off a tree nearby, make it into my mouth and strike my poor defenseless tongue. I spit a little and, just for good measure, let out a couple of self-pitying whimpers to make myself feel better. We are on a mountain in mid-March, and we're on a ridge line. The wind is absolutely brutal, cutting through our many layers and biting deeply into our skin. My face feels completely raw, and I wonder what it will be like to return to normal society with half of my face frozen off. Maybe I'll take up playing the piano and haunt an old opera house.

All of me feels so cold that it's almost impossible to think about anything else. I am able to put one foot in front of the other, and I am still functional. I don't have any idea what real cold even feels like yet, because I haven't yet had hypothermia, although I will, in a week or so. It's hard for me to even remember what it was like to be warm. Have I ever been warm? Or is warmth simply an illusion created by my mind in order to sustain some shred of hope in the barren, frozen tundra of my existence? There are people in Florida right now, probably drinking Arnold Palmers and wearing fashion sunglasses. Or are there? Is Florida just a delusion? A mirage of the fragile human mind?!

"Clever Girl, I think the ridge line goes over the other side of the mountain, we might be out of the wind."

My deep, thoughtful ruminations of complete insanity are interrupted as Dumptruck offers this informed prediction. I consider this.

"But that's what you said when we were on the OTHER side of the mountain, and there was wind there."

"Yeah, so that means that if the trail brings us down the opposite of that side, then there won't be wind," he offers, reasonably.

"I want to believe you, I really do. But I feel like this wind is ALIVE. It's FOLLOWING US, and no matter what side of the mountain we go on, there will still be wind. This way, if there is no wind, I will be delightfully surprised. But if there is still wind, then I won't be disappointed, and I can just continue to accept my lot in life."

In spite of the fact that I sound pessimistic, I'm actually quite happy. The cold hasn't made me grumpy or miserable, I just have taken on an existential acceptance of the truth of the situation. That truth being: I will be cold for the rest of my life until I die, encased in ice, sliding down the side of a mountain. Dumptruck and I start talking about food, and it is a good conversation.

Some time later I am suddenly aware that I can feel the left side of my face again. This seems strange. I must have finally fully succumbed to madness, and I am now imagining that my face is actually still firmly attached to my skull. But as I reach up a hand (inside of a wool sock) and touch my cheek, I know that the wind has stopped.

"THE WIND STOPPED!" cries Dumptruck before I can, and I look over my shoulder to see him grinning. His nose and cheeks are brightly flushed with red, and I finally understand the meaning of the phrase "apple-cheeked." We both pause to take in how different the environment feels, being on the leeward side of the mountain, protected by the howling gale above us. We can actually look around at our surroundings without the moisture being ripped out of our eyes.

I lower my hood and look up at the trees, sparkling with ice. I know this moment is a gift, from the trail gods, from mother nature, from the giant flying spaghetti monster, who knows.

I am standing inside a snow globe, existing in the moment of stillness just after the shaking stops and the last flake gently settles to the bottom.

Clever Girl

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